Atlanta: it's the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil....
Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim — but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?
"You told a two-thousand-year-old oracle to prove it." Hank kept pace beside me, nursing his bloody nose with a handful of fast-food napkins I'd pulled from the glove box earlier. "I mean, do you ever think before the words spew out of your mouth, Charlie?"
This is not your mother's Atlanta. Scientists have discovered that what we used to think of as heaven and hell is actually two other dimensions with complete societies and inhabitants. Now Earth is sharing itself with these inhabitants, which include sirens, mages, hellhounds, jinns, etc.
Kelly Gay's urban fantasy , The Better Part of Darkness hits the ground rolling. This is a wonderful, mature urban fantasy with great characters and real relationships. Charlie is a strong yet faulty heroine who is used to finding herself in over her head. Eight months prior to the beginning of the book, Charlie died in an attack and came back to life after having been mysteriously revived (and let me just say here that, no, she is not a zombie). She also discovered some secrets about her husband and subsequently went through a divorce, leaving herself and her eleven year old daughter (Emma) on their own, but also growing the bond between the two of them. Needless to say, its been a rough eight months. So when The Better Part of Darkness begins, Charlie is already tired and stressed and none too pleased to find yet another victim of the mysterious new off-world drug, ash.
I loved all the characters in this book, even the ones I hated (makes sense, right?). I loved the relationship between Charlie and her partner, a male siren off-worlder named Hank. Hank is often described as a "lion" throughout the book and I think that description fits perfectly. He is strong, loyal, and super sexy. Sadly, Charlie and Hank don't jump into bed in chapter 1. I would have thoroughly enjoyed that! In fact, there isn't really much romance to speak of in this book. There are A LOT of possibilities though, and I was racking my brain for most of the second half of the book trying to figure out which romantic relationship possibility might grow. There is Charlie and Hank, who have a strong partnership and friendship, however Hank has eyes for another off-worlder and Charlie doesn't seem to care about him "in that way" except for a few tinges of jealousy here and there. Then there's Charlie and her ex, Will. They have a history and still an attraction, but his past is difficult for Charlie to move past. Plus, the introduction of a new character named Rex in the last one-third of the book complicates Charlie and Will's relationship a bit. Then there's Charlie's budding relationship with a Charbydon noble, however that is built on some serious mistrust and remains very mysterious still at the end of the story. THEN (yes, there's more) there is Aaron, the sexy mage. Although he might be involved in an interesting story line with Charlie's mage sister, Bryn.
Okay, that sounds like a lot of characters, right? Whew! The introduction of a bunch of characters kind of suddenly in the second half of the book seemed a little overwhelming at first, however I can see side stories developing with each of these characters and their introduction and inclusion was necessary to the plot of the book's last half (the better half in my opinion).
Something else about this book that I feel I should mention is that I was immediately reminded of the Kate Daniels series due to the setting of the story (an alternate Atlanta) and the fact that the author drops us right in the middle of things with no back story. I loved the world building here and greatly appreciated the lack of info dumping. I also appreciated that I wasn't totally confused while reading (eh hm Ms. Andrews...). I felt like Gay doled out the info as needed but didn't wait too long to give me the important stuff. It made me feel like the author thinks of her readers as intelligent enough to fill in the gaps along the way, and she didn't over-describe every element of, well, everything (eh hm other favorite author of mine...). Also, Charlie often refers to her daughter Emma as "my kid", which was very reminiscent of Kate's 'kid' in the Kate Daniels series.
All in all, this was a gritty urban fantasy with a kick-ass heroine and a great plot. There was just enough going on and not too much. I loved Gay's writing style and I loved how she wrote Charlie. She is a more mature, more capable lead with a realistic life and realistic problems. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about my heroine having a child and an ex husband, but these things just made Charlie more likable and more real (that seems to be the theme here, have you noticed?). Of course, I could have used some more romance here, but I really don't know where it would have fit in.
I can't wait to move on to the next in the series, The Darkest Edge of Dawn!